Skip to main content

Chester County Press

Fourth of July comes with warning about fireworks

06/29/2015 01:31PM ● By J. Chambless

Sparklers are common during the Fourth of July, but the wire inside them heats to about 2,000 degrees.

By John Chambless

Staff Writer

The warnings come every year at this time, but injuries from fireworks are only increasing.

In 2013, according to a U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission report, an estimated 11,400 injuries were reported. That's compared to 8,700 injuries reported the year before.

There were eight fatalities in 2013 caused by fireworks injuries, or from house fires caused by fireworks.

Most fireworks are illegal in Pennsylvania, but that doesn't stop people from buying them online or out-of-state and setting them off for the Fourth of July. In a posting last week on the township website, East Marlborough Township manager Jane Laslo reminded residents that, "Anything that shoots or flies into the air is prohibited. Recently, some residents reported debris and flares coming onto their properties, from fireworks having been launched on neighboring properties. According to Police Chief Clarke, the only fireworks legal in Pennsylvania for public use are sparklers and devices containing an extremely small amount of powder (no more than a toy pistol cap)."

At last month's East Marlborough Township Board of Supervisors meeting, a resident complained about her neighbors having backyard fireworks, mentioning both the noise and the debris that falls into her yard. Police Chief Robert Clarke was at the meeting and told the resident that, since she knows which homeowners are setting off the fireworks, he would stop at the home and remind them that such large fireworks are illegal in Pennsylvania.

"In a nutshell," Laslo wrote on the township website, "aerial displays, firecrackers, roman candles, cherry bombs, M80s or anything that explodes is illegal. Fines range from a summary offense up to and including a felony of the third degree. Pennsylvania state law also stipulates that the owner/person possessing illegal fireworks is held financially accountable for the removal, storage and destruction of any fireworks confiscated by the police.

"I strongly urge you to stay within the law, as well as safety and common sense, and refrain from using prohibited fireworks to celebrate July 4th," Laslo concluded.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission's report from 2014, men were more likely to be injured than women (57 percent to 43 percent), and about half of the injured were 25 or younger. Children under 4 accounted for 14 percent of the injuries.

Commonly available sparklers caused 2,300 of the 7,400 injuries reported. While sparkers are legal in Pennsylvania, and commonly given to children, the wire inside of them heats to about 2,000 degrees.

The Pennsylvania State Police website warns state residents that:

--The sale and use of items defined as “ground and hand-held sparkling devices,” “novelties” and “toy caps” by the American Pyrotechnics Association are permissible. These are the only types allowed to be sold from tents, stands, convenience stores, retail establishments and other outlets not licensed by the Department of Agriculture.

--Pennsylvania residents may buy Consumer Fireworks only with a display permit issued by the municipality where the display will take place. Non-residents may, with proof of out-of-state residency status, to purchase Consumer Fireworks from a facility licensed by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, provided the fireworks are transported directly out of state by the seller or purchaser. A permit for a fireworks display must be obtained from the municipality where the display will take place.

--Police officers can make arrests and confiscate fireworks. To report a violation of the fireworks law, contact the police department in your area.

--If you decide to use permitted novelty items or sparklers, always read and follow the instructions carefully, use the items outside in an open area, supervise all activities, light only one item at a time, and place used items in a bucket of water before disposing of them.

--Cherry bombs, M-80s, M-100s, silver salutes and other illegal fireworks are all extremely dangerous. In addition, fireworks constructed from mail order kits are illegal and dangerous. Never attempt to make your own fireworks or tamper with fireworks.

To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, email jchambless@chestercounty.com.

Like what you're reading? Subscribe to Chester County's free newsletter to catch every headline